Naturally as parents, we almost always want the focus of any photography to be on the youngest members of the family. After all, childhood flies past and our children grow and change rapidly, sometimes it seems by the day. And there is no doubt about it, photographing children is great fun and an endlessly creative thing to do.
As we get older, most of us become inhibited when the camera is pointed at us. We loose that ability and confidence to be ourselves and trust that great images can be created from how we look now. It’s something I love to prove wrong in adults, when they warn me they are terrible or hate being in front of the camera. It is very satisfying and fulfilling when they love the results of pictures of them on their own or interacting with their children and other family members.
But it is true, the older generations often get slightly forgotten with family picture-taking which is why I always love it when a family tells me that grandpa or grandma are going to be present at their family session, or I get a commission to photograph the whole extended family with grandparents, aunts, uncles etc. or the session is a present for Grandma or Grandpa’s wedding anniversary or a landmark birthday.
And these pictures are often the ones that are cherished the most – grandpa with the children, grandpa and grandma together, or with their own children or even just a great portrait of one of them.
So for this month’s ’emblems of..’ post, I want to share with you a few picture taken of Derek on his 100th birthday last year. A few weeks ago Derek passed away. He was just 101 and today is his funeral.
There are, as you can imagine, many wonderful photographs of Derek in the family’s archive. The early images of him in his infancy are beautiful precious items – taken when photography was still relatively in it’s infancy itself and certainly less than 100 years old. The negatives for these images have long gone but the prints survive – framed and reframed, handled and handed down the generations and enjoyed even now he no longer with us – or even more so you could say. They are precious indeed and I have been asked by Derek’s daughter Sally to scan, restore and digitally archive them for the family which is another service as well as taking photographs I can offer people.
Derek was an amazing person. A totally postive and strong man: strong physically and mentally. Boredom was an anathema to him. He loved making things, loved learning, loved helping people. He made it his mantra not to grumble or cave in to life’s little annoyances and aches and pains. There aren’t many of us who can do that right up til the end, but it was always humbling and inspiring to spend time in his company and to come away realising that he really did have the key to a long and happy life.
He was also extremely funny with an amazing memory for jokes. On his hundredth birthday when I mentioned that the bra was invented the year he was born, he replied: “Oh really? I haven’t seen one of those for a long while”.
Everyone was happy in his company. He just made it easy and comfortable for everyone whatever age. And he never missed a birthday, never.
He loved wine, he loved dinner with friends, dogs, painting, history, biography, the Clangers… the list of interests is endless.
A life that spanned two world wars, upteen inventions and, well -100 birthday parties.
And his response to that inevitable question: ‘What is your secret to a long life?’:
‘Work. And helping others who are troubled to be cheerful. To be happy yourself you need to help others.’
Here he is on his 100th birthday.
Derek I salute you. It was a privilege to have known you.
Sending himself up with his favourite children’s character:
with daughter Sally:
Whether they are newborns, or have reached 100, never stop making a record of those who are precious to you…
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